A bird-stravaganza on Inner Farne

It’s peak breeding season for many birds on the Farne Islands in July, so if you take a boat trip from Seahouses out to Inner Farne as I did this weekend, expect to be dive-bombed by territorial Terns as soon as you step foot ashore – their nests surround the pathways. Take a hat or hood to avoid a direct peck to your head, or failing that keep wigging your hands near your head – not enough to scare the birds, just enough to stop your head looking like an easy target!

The island is home, at least at this time of the year, to literally thousands of nesting birds of several different species, including various Terns and Gulls, Guillemots, Shags, and Kittiwakes, amongst others. Seals bob around in the water around the islands but weren’t easy to photograph; maybe they were camera shy. And of course there were the puffins.

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The puffins were the best bit of the trip for me. Bright legs and parrot-like beaks (they are known as Sea Parrots – and have the interesting nickname ‘Tommy Noddy’ locally), portly stature and waddling gait, they are a magnificent sight. More so because of their numbers; there are around 40,000 pairs currently nesting on the island. Visitors can see them sitting contentedly on the island’s rocks and walls, as well as in burrows on the ground, and then flying around across the sea. They can fly so low they sometimes look as though they’re only just managing to stay above the waves, before bringing fish back to their burrows (borrowed from the local rabbits who must be evicted at this time of year) and disappearing down them to escape a mugging from the gulls while they eat.

I haven’t finished editing yet but here are a few initial photos from the 550+ (!) I took in what was basically a day and a half in Northumberland, visiting Dunstanburgh Castle and Inner Farne…glad I took so many though, because birds can be challenging to photograph so there was a bit of experimentation with shutter speeds and framing, which means there are quite a lot which didn’t turn out. But enough that did, which is the main thing. Being a bit trigger happy has its benefits sometimes, it would seem.

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